Valley Grove School District plans $66K for tech access

VE-Around-County
By WILLIAM STEVENS
Staff writer

The Valley Grove School Board had a tech-centric work session on Monday night as it discussed its intention to increase technology access for students districtwide.

The board wants to purchase 15 Cisco access points for Rocky Grove High School and 20 for Valley Grove Elementary School for $33,373, 64 HP Chromebook 11 G5 EE’s and four Chromebook carts for Valley Grove Elementary School for $21,914, and 16 HP 455 G4 laptops and a laptop cart for Valley Grove Elementary School for $10,609.

Superintendent Kevin Briggs said a total of $100,000 has been earmarked for technology purchases within the district and the total initial purchase of the laptops, access points and carts is $65,895.

It has not been decided how the remaining $34,105 will be used, Briggs said after the meeting.

The purchase comes six months after Valley Grove Elementary School principal Jacob Saullo and mid-level principal Kelly Hart presented a technology plan to the board.

In August, Saullo said the principals would like to add general technology education courses for kindergarten through sixth grades that are designed to teach students how to use computers and technology in real-world situations.

Board president Melanie Anderson voiced concerns in September the goals of the technology plan were unclear.

At Monday night’s meeting, Saullo addressed Anderson’s concern by providing six main goals for the most recent technology purchases:

  • Create a mobile student-centered computing environment within the elementary school, increasing access to information.
  • Provide students with a way to access the information.
  • Ensure the success of the integration by training teachers on how to use the technology so they can properly teach students.
  • Increase availability of electronic resources to support teachers and students.
  • Integrate technology into the classroom environment with consideration for the curriculum.
  • Have teachers work together to improve teaching and learning with a variety of tools and methods.

“We’ve looked at the issues and younger grades weren’t getting the technology that they should be,” Saullo said.

“The Chromebooks will start in kindergarten through third grade and will allow them to use their fingers. Another laptop cart will go to fourth and sixth grades.”

Anderson asked how the schools would avoid the issues of scheduling the use of the laptop carts among the different grade levels.

Saullo said he is currently looking to rework the elementary school schedule to avoid scheduling conflicts with the new technology.

Board member Joanne Beach raised concerns about the potential spread of influenza via the laptops.

Board member Christine Bingman said she could provide cleaning products for the laptop, at which point Beach said they could use the cleaning as a teaching tool for students to prevent the spread of germs.

“We want to teach the students how to take care of the technology and how to be responsible for it,” Saullo said.

Robotics teams

Briggs said he was looking to increase options for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) within the district by starting robotics teams for the elementary school, middle school and high school.

A conference request for Hart and other administrative staff to attend the Regional Robotics meeting Friday at Riverview Intermediate Unit 6 in Clarion was the only action item on Monday’s agenda.

Briggs said the goal of the conference is to help the school district with implementation of the robotics program later in the year.

A motion was made by Vice President Cindy Swendsen and seconded by board member Todd Carson. The vote was unanimous.

District website

The board heard from Rocky Grove High School principal Ed Baumcratz regarding the modernization of the Valley Grove School District website.

Baumcratz started his presentation by saying the website acts as the face of the district.

In addition, Baumcratz asked the board to consider changing the logo for the new website and provided the board with a new design.

The administrative team would also be responsible for curating content for the new website, Baumcratz said.

The site would feature photos and videos of events within the school to “brighten up all the things we do here in the district,” Baumcratz said.

“The (responsibility to provide) content will be on our (the administrative team’s) shoulders,” Baumcratz said.

In addition to the new-look website and potential logo, Baumcratz said the school district should also begin utilizing social media by creating a YouTube channel, Facebook page and Twitter account to stay engaged with parents.

Anderson asked what the time frame would be for getting the website and social media accounts in working order.

Baumcratz said he’s hoping to have everything ready by June.

Swendsen asked how they would provide parents with exposure to the site prior to the launch date.

Board member Nicki McGill said they could provide information at orientation at the start of the school year and use social media to draw attention to the new site.

The next meeting of the Valley Grove School Board is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 20, in the Rocky Grove High School library.